We’ve reached the point where a photo struggles to convey what’s going on…

Let’s recap the past three weeks, briefly; we first built a very simple mono synth patch in week one. In week two we added complexity to that patch in the form of additional oscillators, more in-depth and interesting modulation, and the utilities needed to make it all go. Finally in week three, we added generative sequencing to help us create interesting sequences on the fly. Now, in the penultimate version of this patch, we are going to add effects and even more controls.

If you’re familiar with nearly any aspect of music making, from “play a little guitar in my bedroom” level and up, you’re presumably familiar with the concept of effects, what they do and why you want that. If not … well, without getting into a whole other can of worms, the add depth and richness to a sound, helping to make it sound “finished” or polished.

Here we add delay and reverb, both variations of spatial effects — they offer the illusion of the sound existing in a space of some kind. Delay, or echo, is like when you shout “helloo” into a canyon and hear back “Hello… hello … hello…” in ever descending levels. Reverb is just “space” more generally — think of how your voice sounds better/richer when you sing in the shower, or in a big church the choir has so much more presence. Here’s some audio, and look at the video at the end for some examples of what I mean.

Our fancy square generative sequence now has some effects (a combo of delay and reverb)!

In this case, I am using some pretty fancy examples of those effects — the Make Noise Mimeophon for delay, and the Noise Engineering Desmodus Versio for reverb. These are hugely customizable and controllable effects that can cover all kinds of typical, and atypical, delay and reverb effects. To take advantage of that, I added the Intellijel Planar 2 to the mix. This is an advanced joystick controller with a ton of features but we’re going to keep it simple and just use the X and Y axis outputs to control the feedback of both the delay and reverb on one axis (lo stick low feedback; high stick, high feedback), and the delay’s time scale on the other (very short delays when the stick is to the left, very long when it is to the left, in between in the middle).

With that control, plus the controls from last week’s generative patch (lock sequence, octave up and octave down buttons, plus the various 0-CTRL controls that allow me to tweak the speed of the sequence, its triggers/rests, and many other things; it’ll get a dedicated post some day), I can actually create an incredible variety of sounds, rhythms and effects.

At this point, I hope, you begin to really appreciate the specialness of modular, which is being able to sculpt these kind of unique, personal patches to make different kinds of music. It’s an approach that blends sound design, composition, improvisation and production into one big, weird package.

This patch has now reached a stage where it could very well be finished, but we have one more iteration…

Starting next week, and for the four weeks of February, I am using these patches to record an album of long, mostly improvised modular pieces. This patch will be the basis of the first of these! Next week, we’re going to add a few accompaniment elements (maybe some drums! and harmonies!) and actually play the patch to make a track. If you’ve been having trouble keeping up…it’s going to get worse for a few weeks, but if you’ve been bored at the pace, good news: we’re doing a full performance patch each week all month. Hope to see you there!

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